Planning for the Agricultural – Science Building, which was later to become affectionately known as “AgSci”, began in earnest sometime prior to January 1963 when Dr. Richard Delorit, Dean of the School of Agriculture, announced the completion of plans for the new building with a price tag of about two million dollars. Delorit reported that the new building would house the agricultural sciences, the biological sciences, the earth sciences, mathematics and part of the agricultural engineering technology program. Some of the specialized features of the new building were a laboratory instrument room, a heat room with drying ovens, a Kjeldahl room for nitrogen (protein) determination, an ether extract room, and spaces where various specimens could be stored and displayed. Remarkably the facility also include a specialized laboratory for nuclear chemistry when it was finally completed. The building would be constructed in an area to the south of the current agriculture building and west of Hathorn Hall. The completion date was expected to be in the fall of 1964.
The decision to combine two disciplines, science and agriculture, seems to have come about as a compromise between President Kleinpell, who favored construction of a science building, and Dick Delorit, who encouraged Kleinpell to build an agriculture facility. Perhaps Kleinpell’s vision for a strong science emphasis was motivated by the prevailing national priorities of the time, following the launch of the Sputnik spacecraft by the Soviets. Nevertheless it is on record that as early as 1955 President Kleinpell lamented the fact that the campus had no facilities for food processing, livestock sanitation and animal hygiene, and for the preservation of meats and diary products, thus providing leverage for Delorit’s point of view. Central Administration in Madison and the State Building Commission gave approval for a new building in 1964.
Almost a full year after Delorit’s announcement, the Wisconsin State Building Commission released $32,000 for planning purposes. Selection of the Green Bay architectural firm, Bernes, Schoeber and Kilp, which had previously designed the Chalmer Davee Library, was also announced. This firm later produced the plans for the 1982 Food Science Addition.
The low bid of $1,914,383 was announced in June 1965. In January of 1966 The Student Voice reported that the construction superintendent, Sidney Finley, was confident that construction was on schedule for the deadline of August 15. The roof had been sealed, and permanent heating was to be installed soon. Later that year, in May, the Student Voice reported that President Eugene H. Kleinpell announced that the building would be ready for occupancy and use by fall quarter. Kleinpell also explained that the new Science Hall would house the following departments: Economics, Biology, Mathematics, and Agriculture. With the exception of Agriculture, the other departments would be moving from North Hall leaving behind the Chemistry and Physics departments. The vacated North Hall space would be converted into offices for the administration. The former Agriculture building, which was located south of the Hagestad Student Center, would be occupied by the Psychology Department according to Wisconsin State University Chief Engineer, Neil Barron. Barron also revealed that a green house would be built to the east of the new agriculture building. The area to the west was to remain open, allowing for a 50- foot wing addition when expansion became necessary. A faculty parking lot, which could be used by students in the evening, would be located to the south.
On September 19, 1966, The Student Voice described the new building from a somewhat conflicted perspective.
“With its imposing structural appearance and its box-like shape, the newest addition to the university classroom facilities, the five-storied Agriculture-Science Building is in stark contrast to the other building on campus. When one first views the building it takes on the appearance of a somewhat squat complex, almost like a modern office building. There is no hint on the outside of the building, of the evidences of educational advances housed on the inside.”
The article went on to say that the planetarium and the auditorium, which had been added after the original plans were approved, were not yet complete. The number of actual classrooms in the complex was reported to be “less than seven”, but laboratories and working areas numbered “more than 25”. In the following spring the Voice announced that plans for the planetarium were complete, but that funds for completion were lacking. The 24-foot diameter planetarium dome was projected to be the largest of its particular design to be constructed at that time. It was projected to cost over $25,000.
With the opening of the new building, the College was formally organized into five departments, each having its own Chairman.
Agricultural Economics – Vern Elefson
Agricultural Education – Marvin Thompson
Agricultural Engineering Technology Thorvold Thorsen
Animal Science – Donald Hargrove
Plant and Earth Sciences – Melvin Wall
When Steve Ridley began teaching Food Chemistry and Food Microbiology in the fall of 1974, he recalled that the AgSci laboratory facilities were quite good in terms of design, layout and equipment, which included a gas chromatograph, and radiological measurement equipment. The basement housed the meat processing lab along with a very large walk-in freezer and refrigerator. On the west end of the basement there was a men’s locker room and storage areas for acids and for volatile solvents. The latter was constructed with one soft structural wall designed to blow out to the south of the building in case of an accidental explosion.